Martin Truex Jr. opened the Cup Series playoffs with a win in Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Truex passed Kevin Harvick with 20 laps to go and went unchallenged to the finish. He claimed his fifth victory of the year and his first since Sonoma Raceway in June. His five wins surpasses his total from last year and leads the series.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has now won the opening race of the playoffs in three of the last four years.
“We took a gamble and qualified 24th” Truex told NBCSN. “For a while there it wasn’t looking too smart, with (Harvick) out front. Got the right adjustments at the end. Had a great car all day long.”
The top five was completed by Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney.
Playoff drivers populated the entire top 10. Alex Bowman finished sixth and he was followed by William Byron, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
Harvick finished second after leading 47 laps.
“We were way off after we got here this week,” Harvick told NBCSN. “(His team) kept working. We qualified well and it wasn’t where we wanted when we started the race. We got stage points and led there late and gave us an opportunity. … Martin was just so much better on the second half of the run.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano. Started 22nd, took the lead on Lap 34 and led 31 laps before claiming the stage win.
STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr. Passed Logano coming to two laps to go after Logano got held up by lapped traffic.
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: William Byron managed to finish seventh after he spun from a cut tire – a result of contact with Ryan Blaney – on Lap 181 … Joey Logano led 105 laps and finished ninth after multiple cases of contact on a restart damaged his car … Alex Bowman place sixth for his best result since he won at Chicagoland Speedway.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch, the regular-season champion, finished 19th. He had to pit on Lap 12 following contact with the wall in the opening laps and was two laps down at one point. Front-end damage late from contact with the lapped car of Garrett Smithley ended a comeback run that saw him run as high as fifth .… Erik Jones placed 36th after went to the garage to start Stage 2 following his transmission getting stuck in second gear … Kurt Busch cut his left-front tire from contact with Martin Truex Jr on a restart and crashed. He finished 39th … Pole-sitter Clint Bowyer‘s night went downhill fast after the green flag. He led the first lap, before falling back. He finished outside the top 10 in Stage 1 and went a lap down in Stage 1. He was forced to pit on Lap 198 for damage and finished 25th.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Should of run fourth, probably. But instead 19th. We’re the top echelon of motorsports and we’ve got guys that have never won late model races running out here on the race track. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. So, what else do you do?” – Kyle Busch to NBCSN on his contact with Garrett Smithley that ended his comeback run.
WHAT’S NEXT: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway at 7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 21 on NBCSN